The HSE has said it can process a maximum of 17,000 Covid-19 cases a day under the current system for testing people suspected of being infected with the virus.
he health service said 11,000 tests are completed by private laboratories on a daily basis and another 4,000 are carried out in hospitals.
Any additional samples are sent to laboratories in Germany but there is cap of 2,000 tests a day under the contract.
The new figures come after it emerged HSE chief executive Paul Reid warned a Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 of the restraints the health service faced in meeting the demands from a second wave of the virus.
A spokesperson said the HSE was asked by Nphet to provide capacity up to 15,000 tests per day which is “constantly reviewed” and opportunities to extend capacity are “consistently” examined.
“We have built up our onshore capacity, we have 11,000 of daily capacity in private laboratories contracted to the HSE under NVRL governance. These labs do community testing,” a spokesperson said.
“The hospital laboratories then make up the balance to get to 15,000. We have an ongoing agreement with German laboratory partner. We use this if we exceed capacity needed on island. This amount is capped at 2,000 per day at present,” she added.
The Department of Health said the HSE is “finalising a future service model” for testing and tracing.
A spokesperson said the plan includes the recruitment of a permanent workforce, which has already commenced, and a range of other service improvements which will be rolled out quickly.
In recent weeks we have needed to flex resources up significantly as demand has increased. We are testing more people than ever before, with over 80,000 tests completed in the week to 18th September,” she said.
“Community testing has increased in line with a steady increase in the prevalence of the disease and the HSE has deployed additional resources to meet this increased demand.
This included the opening of additional community testing centres and mobile pop-up testing units, significantly increased contact tracing teams and increased laboratory testing,” she added.